The overall goal of any type of learning is to provide the learner with the tools, knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in life. With the development of technologies, e-learning has expanded and new forms of acquiring knowledge have emerged. Whether we are talking about gamification, micro-learning or discovery-based learning, we are all aware of the benefits of custom e-learning modules.
When the course is developed and localized in such a way that it reaches all learners and provides them with the necessary knowledge, it will be welcomed by both the educating institution and the target users. One of the ways to improve the overall learning experience is to use adaptive learning. The notion is actually decades old, however it has gained new meaning in the recent years.
The Notion of Adaptive Learning in Time
The idea of adaptive learning actually dates back to the 1970s. The basic belief at the time was that the computers will develop in such a way that they will be able to match the adaptivity level of the learner. The overall idea behind the term adaptive learning is that customized resources and learning activities can be delivered to the learner in order to meet their specific needs with the help of a computer algorithm. Each learner has to answer a series of questions and tasks, which check the level of their knowledge on the subject. Then, based on the results, computers adapt the material that is to be taught to each individual. In order to achieve the best technology to deliver adaptive learning, various fields of study are utilized, such as computer science, brain science, education, AI, psychology, and psychometrics.
The overall goal of adaptive learning is to create a unique experience for each learner, that results in more beneficial learning.
Initially the method of adaptive learning was not that popular and its development was hindered by the cost and size of computers and the fact that the interface was not conductive. The development of the new technologies lead to a significant change in the concept.
Now, adaptive learning is mainly used in education, and it was implemented by World School Council – London in 2012 in several kinds of educational systems. It has gained more popularity in corporate training as well, though it is used a bit differently. Quite often the learners pass a test to reveal their knowledge and experience and thus certain parts of the training topics are excluded from the material that is presented to them. In other words, the employee learns only what they need in order to improve their performance.
Adaptive Learning in Education
Many educational institutions have adopted the technique of adaptive learning in order to provide personalized teaching to their students, which is more efficient, engaging, and effective. The content is delivered in an appropriate sequence and time so that the learners can make progress in accordance with their performance level. The systems that are developed use specific algorithms, assessments, instructor adjustment, students feedback and various media in order to achieve the desired result. The learning takes place based on the student interaction and their level of mastery of the material. So, the path and pace of the process is determined by the learners themselves.
Various publishers and content providers have embraced the model and provide such type of learning. The tools can be used both for individual instruction and training large groups of students. The personalized form of learning leads to better academic success. It also reduces the possibility of cheating, since each student receives individually assigned tasks and problems to solve.
While the results and benefits of adaptive learning are numerous, there are also some drawbacks. The disadvantages are mainly related to the lack of time and the necessity to adjust the academic year and the curriculum to this new method. The content of the course needs to be carefully analyzed at a concept level, the connections with other courses need to be established. As it is with all other systems, however, adaptive learning will improve in time when more data is collected from a greater number of students.
Adaptive Learning for Corporate Training
The main purpose of adaptive learning in a corporate setting is to help the individual employee improve their workplace performance by using data, technology and content. If the training provides the right support at the right time, its ultimate goal is then successfully achieved.
Some of the companies are skeptical about the implementation of this approach, but the truth is that it is suitable for both small businesses and large corporations. In order to implement it in the right way, though, you need to pay special attention to the way you use data, technology and content.
You need to use broader data as a basis for the employee training that you develop. You can use business data, for example, for the design of your next e-learning courses. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both your internal company microclimate and the broader market, plus teaching your employees how to cope with them will give the desired results.
You also need to be more demanding towards your technology providers. You need the right tools in order to be able to provide the best options and experience of adaptive learning.
Last but not least, you need to pay attention to the content and how you will present it to your employees. It is not efficient to build all-encompassing courses focusing on a general topic but rather small and more focused pieces. If you need to talk about safety, for example, divide the content into specific safety issues and how to approach them.
At the end of the day, adaptive learning is applicable at all levels of company training. All you need to do is put forth some effort and generate an overall change in the way we think about learning and its goals. Surely, there will be the need to rework the materials and platforms used for training, however the expected results are worth giving this approach a try.
In general, adaptive learning can be a very successful tool if used properly. It definitely has many strengths that can be used by both educational institutions and corporations in their attempt to provide a better training for their students and employees respectively.